Fate and Transport of Unregulated Organic Contaminants in Biosolids - Development of a Human and Environmental Exposure Risk Framework

EPA Grant Number: R840247
Title: Fate and Transport of Unregulated Organic Contaminants in Biosolids - Development of a Human and Environmental Exposure Risk Framework
Investigators: Prasse, Carsten , Nachman, Keeve , Burke, Thomas A.
Institution: Johns Hopkins University
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: September 1, 2021 through August 31, 2024
Project Amount: $1,498,000
RFA: National Priorities: Evaluation of Pollutants in Biosolids (2021) RFA Text
Research Category: Water Quality , Water , Water Treatment


We propose a transdisciplinary and highly innovative project to develop a flexible framework for the prioritization of biosolids-associated organic contaminants (BOCs). The objectives are to 1) characterize the occurrence, fate, and transport of BOCs after land application of biosolids; 2) model BOC exposures and perform hazard and risk assessments to identify high-priority BOCs; and 3) utilize an array of communication channels to translate our findings and methodology for the wastewater and agriculture communities, regulators, and the general public.


We will use an integrated set of novel analytical, in silico toxicological, and risk sciences tools to identify previously unknown BOCs, trace their fate through multiple environmental media, and prioritize them for future decision-making. We will combine laboratory and field experiments to characterize the occurrence and transformation of BOCs in biosolids-amended soils, assess their potential to contaminate surface and groundwater, and quantify bioaccumulation into and metabolism within edible produce. Using novel computational toxicology tools, we will identify BOCs that are of highest concern for human and ecological receptors. Combined with advanced probabilistic modeling of exposure scenarios, we will characterize risks and develop a flexible prioritization framework suitable for multiple decision contexts. The project will iteratively benefit from inputs and advice via ongoing discussions with an established stakeholder advisory board. All project findings will be translated for the wastewater and agriculture communities as well as for the general public in easily understandable outreach and education materials, and technical details will be published in the peer-reviewed literature and as an open access video methods journal article.

Expected Results:

The proposed research will provide a new, flexible framework for the identification of high-priority BOCs in biosolids, which can form the basis for future interventions and development of best risk management practices aimed at protecting public health and ecosystems. Beyond the prioritization framework, the generated primary BOC data (such as mass spectrometry information, partition coefficients, and bioaccumulation factors) will be made available for integration into online contaminant databases. Recognizing their essential role in reducing the emissions of contaminants originating from households and industrial uses into the environment, our findings will increase the ability of water resource recovery facilities to identify and manage BOCs and help to better plan potential strategies to mitigate their sources. The project outcomes and the developed framework will be presented to states, utilities and academia in lay-friendly communication materials, peer-reviewed publications, an open-access video methods journal article, and webinars and conference presentations.

Supplemental Keywords:

measurement methods; environmental chemistry; organics; human health